It has been quite some time since I’ve shared a Design Discussion post… almost a year! Every once in awhile an interior or home related topic will cross my mind, that I feel would make great conversation here on the blog. This used to be one of my favorite series, so I figured it was time to resurrect some controversial design topics. Obviously these posts are meant to be fun, as I enjoy chatting and thinking about all sorts of design related topics- that are both popular and unpopular. It’s always fascinating and enlightening to hear unique perspectives, and learn about everyone’s preferences. I also enjoy sharing my personal opinion and design philosophy surrounding some of these touchy interior subjects. Before we dive in, I’ll say this- I’m a firm believer you should create a home you love and enjoy (not matter what is trending). I trust we can all be respectful of our differences and interior preferences. Let’s be sure to keep it friendly! I know I don’t have to say that to 99.9% of my friends here, but just in case. Let’s do it… click through to chat accent walls with me. FYI- all of the images throughout this post provide great examples for alternative ideas. Did you already guess where I stand?
Last week, I was chatting with a friend and she asked my opinion on accent walls. She was contemplating a bold paint color in her home, but seemed a bit intimidated to fully commit. She wanted to know if single color painted accent walls were totally out of style. Ask any of my close friends and they’ll tell you I’m the type of gal who doesn’t hold back, when it comes to honestly voicing my opinion. While traditional accent walls simply aren’t my thing and I’m not a fan of the look- I do think there is a time & place for everything. After all- design limits are meant to be pushed. Could it work in the right space? Sure. Is it something I want to apply in my home? Not in the traditional sense… which is the exact feedback I shared with her.
First, let’s chat about what I classify as an “accent wall” and under what circumstances they work well.
An accent wall is an interior wall that is typically treated in a different manner than the walls surrounding it. Typically it is painted a different color.
I think accent walls work best when they’re more about texture and less about color, but we’ll get to that in a minute. In the early 2000’s, painted accent walls were very trendy. Lots of people were experimenting with solid, bold colors in their homes (which is wonderful)– but only on one wall. The issue with that? It can really break up a room, making a space look compartmentalized in a choppy, non cohesive, random way. It can also draw emphasis to less-than-appealing architectural elements, like low ceilings, lack of millwork, and can pull focus from more important or impressive vignettes. I also think accent walls of this style can appear dated. So how exactly does one achieve an inspired look, in regards to “accent” walls?
My advice would be to think about accent walls in other ways- aside from strictly paint color. First, ask yourself why you would like to “accent” or draw focus to a specific wall? I think the reasoning should be about more than not wanting to fully commit to the entire space. Is it to distract from a different area that isn’t working well? To highlight the most impressive vignette in the room? Would you like to add interest to an architectural element? Or simply pull one into a space? This can be done in a variety of updated & thoughtful ways…
Think about texture… you could accent a wall by adding wall-to-wall drapery panels for added softness. You could draw the eye upward with a textural tongue-and-groove or board-and-batten wall treatment, or you could install a mural or subtle wallpaper for a pop of pattern. Those ideas feel more updated, intentional, and inspired to me, as opposed to slapping some bold paint on a single wall in fear of making the entire room feel too dark or crazy.
I also don’t love the idea of treating a single, random wall differently without intention. Therefore, I wanted to share some alternative ideas that use bold color, texture, and pattern that feel more thoughtful, are still less committal, better for the budget, and won’t look dated in the years to come.
Ideas to Try Instead…
Consider this a jumping off point or brainstorming list of alternative accent wall ideas…
- Highlight Architectural Elements with Paint // Paint your fireplace, try contrast trim, paint interior doors, fireplaces, range hoods, built-ins, a wall of cabinets, the backside of shelving etc.
- Paint the Ceiling // The exception I have to “accent walls” isn’t even a wall… it’s the ceiling. I love a contrast ceiling in certain spaces! It can really provide cohesion.
- Go Bold in a Small Spaces // Experiment with bold paint colors or wallpaper in smaller spaces like a closet, window nook, powder room, or hallway.
- Install Textural Building Elements // Add interest with floor-to-ceiling tile in the kitchen or bath, try board-and-batten or tongue-and-groove wall treatments, plan an exposed brick wall, etc.
- Play with Finishing Techniques // Venetian plaster, roman clay, or a high gloss paint finish can also add interest to walls and the ceiling.
- Soften a Wall with Drapery Panels // Regardless if there are window or doors to be covered… use drapery panels to add interest (like I did in my basement).
- Paint Contrasting Millwork // Choose a different color than the wall for millwork- like wainscoting, for a color blocked look.
- Use Wall Decor to Make an Impact // Install a giant gallery wall, tapestries or textiles, oversized artwork, or upholstered wall panels for a unique application.
- Go Bold in the Entire Room // Simply paint the entire room a bold color… you may be surprised just how much you like it! I’d take that over an accent wall any day.
All of these things can be considered “accents” that highlight and define certain vignettes within a space. Hopefully some of those bullet points will get your wheels turning. It’s funny… I hadn’t thought or talked about accent walls in years, but that conversation sparked some ideas on how that term and treatment could really evolve for a more meaningful & timeless interior look.
If you’re looking for more Design Discussion topics to read up on, I’ll link them below… this series continues to intrigue me! I’d also love to hear your topic ideas for our next design chat. Any thoughts?
- Hardwoods in the Kitchen
- Natural vs. Engineered
- Nude Art
- Countertop Space
- Color Blocking
- TV Over the Fireplace
- Stacked vs Side-by-Side Laundry Units
- Furniture Arranged Against a Wall
- Shelf Styling with Books
- Wool Rugs in the Bathroom
- Quality & Slow Renovation
I think the takeaway is this… my personal preference is to avoid doing a solid bold color on a random wall. Instead, I’d commit to using color in an intentional & thoughtful way (an updated “accent wall”, if you will), as well as within textural wall treatments, while considering architectural elements you can highlight. It’s also important to choose what area you are highlighting wisely. Thought provoking? I hope so! I’d love to hear your take on accent walls in the comment section below… and of course- take this with a grain of salt, and always do what’s best for you in your home! Here’s to a colorful and inspiring year ahead- no matter how that translates at home.